Gliding down snow-covered mountains, surrounded by trees, wildlife and crisp fresh air – ski holidays let you to get up close and personal with nature. And with climate change at the forefront of our minds, a lot of resorts have invested in eco-friendlier ways to cut down their carbon footprint and help preserve the Alpine landscape for years to come.
Söll is well known for its green heating initiative. Instead of gas or coal, they burn wood chips to make fuel to heat the entire bottom lift station – an ideal form of renewable energy that creates fewer pollutants.
And as for the snow, the 906 snow cannons dotted around the resort are eco-friendly too. Local reservoirs are filled over the summer with rainfall and snowmelt, which is then turned into the precious white stuff once winter arrives.
The whole of the wider SkiWelt area is also hot on sorting waste. There are recycling bins at all lift stations, so you can do your bit by putting your rubbish in the right one.
Zermatt is the world’s first pollution-free town. It’s a totally car-free resort, so people use horse-drawn carriages and electric taxis to get around instead. The local wildlife – like deer, marmots and chamois – are also protected by marked no-go areas for humans.
Up on the peak, there are award-winning solar panels on the Matterhorn Glacier Restaurant. The panels collect the cold air outside and turn it into heating for the restaurant and kitchen.
Zermatt is at the top of its game when it comes to recycling equipment too. A 23,500-foot cable taken from an old gondola was used to build 20 bridges in Myanmar and Indonesia, which are used by thousands of people every day.
Ruka has been a carbon-neutral resort since 2018, with hydroelectric and wind energy powering lots of its accommodation. Other buildings are heated with biomass fuels made with wood chips, or geothermal energy using heat formed underground.
On the slopes, the resort has cut down on snow cannons by building fences to collect snow on the fell during the winter. It’s stored under sawdust and felt sheets over the summer and then used to open a handful of runs before the next winter season officially starts – sometimes as early as October.
Named one of Canada’s greenest employers, Whistler Blackcomb has its fingers in lots of eco-friendly pies.
The resort generates enough hydroelectric power to run 17 restaurants, 28 ski lifts and over 300 snow cannons. And since 2000, it’s lowered its landfill input by 70% ̶ helped by the annual mountain clean-up day in April, when staff head to the hill to pick up litter.
Whistler’s hotels are stepping up too. With a rooftop herb garden and beehives, LED lightbulbs, in-room recycling and biodegradable food containers, the luxury Fairmont Chateau Whistler is helping tackle climate change for the resort.
Val Thorens, France
Working in collaboration with Mountain Riders – a team of passionate eco-warriors – Val Thorens has upped its green game. Low-energy street lighting is dotted around the resort and hydroelectric power is used for snow cannons and ski lifts. And 200,000 extra trees have been planted in the last 20 years alone.
The resort has also declared battle against cigarette butts, many of which are found hidden under the snow at ski lift stations, by putting up posters about the dangers of littering. And pocket ash trays are sold in the tourist office to discourage skiers from throwing rubbish on the ground.
Zell am See, Austria
To cut down the number of cars on the road, Zell am See is linked to neighbouring Kaprun by regular free ski buses, as well as lifts.
The Kitzsteinhorn Lift Company was also the first in Austria to be ISO-certified, meaning it’s met the requirements for reducing its impact on the environment. The lifts are powered by hydro energy and they even have solar panels on the roof of the Alpincenter – the top lift station on the Kitzsteinhorn mountain – to heat its restaurants and bars.
What’s more, the snowmobiles used for excursions are run using biofuel made entirely from renewable resources. And throughout the summer, grass and trees are planted across the mountains to give back to nature.
Ready to go green? Check out our other sustainable ski resorts by selecting the ‘Eco Aware’ filter on our deals page.